Battle Blog 25 - 31 July 2004

In Iraq, anti—Coalition forces continue the tactic of kidnapping foreign workers who help with the logistics support of US and Iraqi forces, or in reconstruction efforts.  It was reported on Saturday, July 31, that members of Abu Musab al—Zarqawi's terrorist group had kidnapped two Turkish truck drivers.  The two Turks work for a truck company that delivers supplies to US forces, and the terrorists state they will behead them within 48 hours if the truck company does not withdraw from Iraq.  The Turkish embassy in Baghdad had no further comment on the incident, but it should be noted that earlier, another kidnapped Turkish truck driver had been freed by the terrorists.  These continued kidnappings reveal the terrorists' desperation in trying to stop Iraq's transition to democracy, and it reveals their reluctance of directly confronting Coalition forces in battle.

An example of the one—sided results of attacking Coalition forces was seen in Fallujah this week.  Since Thursday evening, US Marines have been fighting with anti—Coalition forces in this volatile town in the Sunni triangle.  Enemy forces fired mortars, RPGs, machine guns and small—arms on Marine positions outside the town, and the Marines responded with tanks and artillery fire.  Enemy fire ceased, and there were no friendly casualties.  It was estimated that there were 20 enemy killed.  Also, the Iraqi National Guard and Police supported the Marine engagement.  Saturday, fighting resumed as the Marines entered the city with helicopter gunship support, and killed about 13 enemy troops.  There were no US or Iraqi military casualties.

An incredible story of heroism, 11th MEU Marine awarded Navy Cross for legendary day during OIF, recounts the fateful day of March 23, 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom when then—Gunnery Sergeant Justin D. Lehew and the Marines of Task Force Tarawa attacked to seize key bridges in An Nasiriyah.  No further commentary is required; just read this stunning account of our Marines and Army medics in battle.

A DoD press release reports  that a US 1st Infantry Division soldier was killed while on patrol near the town of Hawija, Iraq.  The article also gives an excellent summary of several operations in the theater of operations.  A joint US—Iraqi raid near Ar Rawashi netted 39 prisoners from an anti—Iraqi cell, and succeeded in capturing two known targets, Iman Aziz Ahmen Thahe and Nsaif Lateef Hadi.  The day prior, on July 28, Iraqi forces, which consisted of 280 Iraqi National Guard soldiers and police officers, conducted a raid that resulted in 35 insurgents KIA, and the capture of 45 prisoners.  The operation took place north of As Suwayrah, in the Wassit Province.  Of note, the Central Criminal Court of Iraq recently sentenced an Iraqi man to 18 months in prison for possessing '18 circuit boards and various electronic components including switches, batteries, resistors and clock parts.  According to military officials, the components are believed to be of the type used in making improvised explosive devices.'

Another unheralded operation in Iraq is the successful effort in stabilizing Saddam's own hometown of Tirkrit.  Charlie Rock maintains stability in Tikrit, by Sgt. 1st Class Harvey Cole, describes how the Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division have succeeded in the heart of the Sunni triangle.  To stabilize this center of resistance, the Soldiers conducted operations that consisted of hard—hitting targeted raids, while they concurrently conducted rebuilding operations and focused on Soldier to people contact.  1st Lt. Bret Boyd said, 'When the people see that (you are helping) they'll support you.  Now Iraqis are seeing what security can be versus what it once was and that makes a difference to the support being given to the Soldiers.  When we drive around now there is a big difference, now we've got people giving us information and telling us things like where bombs and suspects can be found.'  On another positive note, the local Iraqi National Guard units have improved substantially since their initial poor showing a few months ago.  Boyd continued, 'The ING and Police Force have come around a whole lot since we've gotten here.  They are taking all the stuff we are training them with, applying it to their daily service and they are now seeing this as their fight.'  It's no wonder that Fallujah continues to present problems to the Coalition and the Iraqi security forces.  If Saddam's hometown is peaceful, where else can the terrorists go?

Meanwhile, in the capital city of Baghdad, Major Richard Bickel, a brigade surgeon in the 1st Cavalry Division, has organized training sessions to better enable Iraqi doctors to perform neonatal resuscitation.  1st Cavalry trains Iraqi doctors to save babies reports that Major Bickel conducted the last of three classes designed to help local practitioners decrease the high infant mortality rate.  Under Saddam's rule, much of the required equipment was not available, but now 'With the exception of a few little pieces of equipment, they have everything they need to [resuscitate a baby].'  Dr. Hassan, an Iraqi physician, who is also the Director of the Ministry of Health for Baghdad's Al—Risafa District, described the situation prior to liberation: 'For 35 years, we have been isolated from the outside world and nobody goes outside [Iraq] to train.  One of the most important things is to train people.  One of the main causes [of the high regional infant mortality rate] is lack of training.  The other is lack of equipment.  Another is the low standard of living in Iraq.'  Thanks to the 1st Cavalry Division and the Coalition, all of this will change for the better.

Douglas Hanson is our Military Affairs Correspondent. Battle Blog appears every Sunday.

In Iraq, anti—Coalition forces continue the tactic of kidnapping foreign workers who help with the logistics support of US and Iraqi forces, or in reconstruction efforts.  It was reported on Saturday, July 31, that members of Abu Musab al—Zarqawi's terrorist group had kidnapped two Turkish truck drivers.  The two Turks work for a truck company that delivers supplies to US forces, and the terrorists state they will behead them within 48 hours if the truck company does not withdraw from Iraq.  The Turkish embassy in Baghdad had no further comment on the incident, but it should be noted that earlier, another kidnapped Turkish truck driver had been freed by the terrorists.  These continued kidnappings reveal the terrorists' desperation in trying to stop Iraq's transition to democracy, and it reveals their reluctance of directly confronting Coalition forces in battle.

An example of the one—sided results of attacking Coalition forces was seen in Fallujah this week.  Since Thursday evening, US Marines have been fighting with anti—Coalition forces in this volatile town in the Sunni triangle.  Enemy forces fired mortars, RPGs, machine guns and small—arms on Marine positions outside the town, and the Marines responded with tanks and artillery fire.  Enemy fire ceased, and there were no friendly casualties.  It was estimated that there were 20 enemy killed.  Also, the Iraqi National Guard and Police supported the Marine engagement.  Saturday, fighting resumed as the Marines entered the city with helicopter gunship support, and killed about 13 enemy troops.  There were no US or Iraqi military casualties.

An incredible story of heroism, 11th MEU Marine awarded Navy Cross for legendary day during OIF, recounts the fateful day of March 23, 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom when then—Gunnery Sergeant Justin D. Lehew and the Marines of Task Force Tarawa attacked to seize key bridges in An Nasiriyah.  No further commentary is required; just read this stunning account of our Marines and Army medics in battle.

A DoD press release reports  that a US 1st Infantry Division soldier was killed while on patrol near the town of Hawija, Iraq.  The article also gives an excellent summary of several operations in the theater of operations.  A joint US—Iraqi raid near Ar Rawashi netted 39 prisoners from an anti—Iraqi cell, and succeeded in capturing two known targets, Iman Aziz Ahmen Thahe and Nsaif Lateef Hadi.  The day prior, on July 28, Iraqi forces, which consisted of 280 Iraqi National Guard soldiers and police officers, conducted a raid that resulted in 35 insurgents KIA, and the capture of 45 prisoners.  The operation took place north of As Suwayrah, in the Wassit Province.  Of note, the Central Criminal Court of Iraq recently sentenced an Iraqi man to 18 months in prison for possessing '18 circuit boards and various electronic components including switches, batteries, resistors and clock parts.  According to military officials, the components are believed to be of the type used in making improvised explosive devices.'

Another unheralded operation in Iraq is the successful effort in stabilizing Saddam's own hometown of Tirkrit.  Charlie Rock maintains stability in Tikrit, by Sgt. 1st Class Harvey Cole, describes how the Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division have succeeded in the heart of the Sunni triangle.  To stabilize this center of resistance, the Soldiers conducted operations that consisted of hard—hitting targeted raids, while they concurrently conducted rebuilding operations and focused on Soldier to people contact.  1st Lt. Bret Boyd said, 'When the people see that (you are helping) they'll support you.  Now Iraqis are seeing what security can be versus what it once was and that makes a difference to the support being given to the Soldiers.  When we drive around now there is a big difference, now we've got people giving us information and telling us things like where bombs and suspects can be found.'  On another positive note, the local Iraqi National Guard units have improved substantially since their initial poor showing a few months ago.  Boyd continued, 'The ING and Police Force have come around a whole lot since we've gotten here.  They are taking all the stuff we are training them with, applying it to their daily service and they are now seeing this as their fight.'  It's no wonder that Fallujah continues to present problems to the Coalition and the Iraqi security forces.  If Saddam's hometown is peaceful, where else can the terrorists go?

Meanwhile, in the capital city of Baghdad, Major Richard Bickel, a brigade surgeon in the 1st Cavalry Division, has organized training sessions to better enable Iraqi doctors to perform neonatal resuscitation.  1st Cavalry trains Iraqi doctors to save babies reports that Major Bickel conducted the last of three classes designed to help local practitioners decrease the high infant mortality rate.  Under Saddam's rule, much of the required equipment was not available, but now 'With the exception of a few little pieces of equipment, they have everything they need to [resuscitate a baby].'  Dr. Hassan, an Iraqi physician, who is also the Director of the Ministry of Health for Baghdad's Al—Risafa District, described the situation prior to liberation: 'For 35 years, we have been isolated from the outside world and nobody goes outside [Iraq] to train.  One of the most important things is to train people.  One of the main causes [of the high regional infant mortality rate] is lack of training.  The other is lack of equipment.  Another is the low standard of living in Iraq.'  Thanks to the 1st Cavalry Division and the Coalition, all of this will change for the better.

Douglas Hanson is our Military Affairs Correspondent. Battle Blog appears every Sunday.